Israel

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State of Israel
  • מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (Hebrew)
  • دَوْلَة إِسْرَائِيل (language?)
A white flag with horizontal blue bands close to the top and bottom, and a blue star of David in the middle. Menorah surrounded by an olive branch on each side, and the writing in Hebrew below it.
Anthem: Hatikvah (The Hope; הַתִּקְוָה)
Political map of the Middle East with Israel in red. An inset shows a world map with the main map's edges outlined.
Capital
and largest city
Jerusalem[a]
31°47′N 35°13′E / 31.783°N 35.217°E / 31.783; 35.217
Official languages
Ethnic groups (2013[2])
Demonym Israeli
Government Parliamentary democracy[1]
 -  President Reuven Rivlin
 -  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
 -  Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein
 -  President of the Supreme Court Asher Grunis
Legislature Knesset
Independence from Mandatory Palestine
 -  Declaration 14 May 1948 
Area
 -  Total 20,770 / 22,072 km2[a] (153rd)
8,019 / 8,522 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 2
Population
 -  2013 estimate 8,134,100[b][3] (97th)
 -  2008 census 7,412,200[b][4]
 -  Density 359/km2 (35th)
930/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012[5] estimate
 -  Total $248.719 billion (49th)
 -  Per capita $32,312 (26th)
GDP (nominal) 2012[5] estimate
 -  Total $240.894 billion (43rd)
 -  Per capita $31,296 (26th)
Gini (2008) 39.2[1]
medium · 66th
HDI (2013) Increase 0.900
very high · 16th
Currency New shekel (‎) (ILS)
Time zone IST (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) IDT (UTC+3)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy (CE)
Drives on the right
Calling code +972
Internet TLD .il
a. ^  Excluding / including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem (see below).
b. ^  Includes all permanent residents in Israel, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Also includes Israeli citizens living in the West Bank. Excludes non-Israeli population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
For the historical people of Israel, see Israelite.

The State of Israel is a country in southwestern Asia on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel became an independent country in 1948.[6] Israel is the only Jewish country, and Jews all over the world think of Israel as their spiritual home. Israel's population was 8.1 million people in 2013 and 6.04 million are Jewish. Almost all the other citizens of Israel are Arabs (1.6 million) and include Muslims, Christians, Druze, and Samaritans.[7] Jerusalem is Israel's capital and largest city.

Israel is a small country, but it has mountains, deserts, shores, valleys and plains. The climate is hot and dry in the summers, and cool and rainy in the winters.

Israel has few natural resources and imports more goods than it exports. It has a relatively high standard of living and life expectancy. Almost all of its people can read and write.

History[change | change source]

The country's history goes back thousands of years, to ancient times. Two world religions, Judaism and Christianity, began here. It is the place where the Jewish nation and religion first grew. Jews and Christians call it the Holy Land, because it is the place of many events described in the Bible.

Ancient[change | change source]

Three thousand years ago, the Canaanites and other Semitic peoples lived here. Between about 1800 and 1500 BCE, another Semitic people, called the Hebrews, settled in Canaan. They were named the “Children of Israel” or “Israelites”. The Israelites had 12 tribes. They chose a King, Saul, as their leader. The next king, David, began the Kingdom of Israel in about 1000 BCE and made the city of Jerusalem his capital. His son, Solomon, built the first Temple for the worship of God. Solomon died in about 928 BCE. His kingdom broke into two countries. The northern country kept the name Israel. The southern country, called Judah, kept Jerusalem as its capital.

The Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 732 BCE and the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE. Many Jews returned from Babylonia and built a country again. First the Persians, then the Greeks and then the Romans ruled the Land of Israel.

The Jews fought against the Romans but the Romans defeated them. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple there. Again, in 132 CE, the Romans defeated the Jews and killed or took many of them to other places. The number of Jews living in Israel became much smaller. Many were forced to live in other countries. This spreading of Jewish communities outside of Israel is called the Diaspora.

Many of the Jews who remained moved to the Galilee. Jewish teachers wrote important Jewish books, called the Mishnah and part of the Talmud there, in the 2nd to 4th centuries CE.

The Romans began to call this region by the word that became Palestine in English. The Roman and then the Byzantine empires ruled until 635 CE, when Arabs conquered the region. Different Arab rulers, and for a while Crusaders, ruled the land. In 1516, the Ottoman Empire conquered the land and ruled the region until the 20th century.

Modern[change | change source]

Since the Diaspora, there have been many attempts to make a new homeland for the Jewish people. In the 1880s, this wish for a Jewish nation in Israel became a movement called Zionism. Jews from all over the world began to come to the area and settled in desert zones, then governed by the Turkish and later by the British Governments.

On 14 May 1948, British control over the Palestine Mandate ended. The Jewish inhabitants (under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion) declared independence for the new Jewish state. Immediately following Israel's declaration of independence, the armies of several nearby countries, including Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq attacked the new country.[8] Since the 1980s the main military opponents of Israel have been Islamist groups, such as Hezbollah.[9]

Geography[change | change source]

The countries of Lebanon and Syria are to the north of Israel, Jordan is on the east and Egypt is to the southwest. Israel also controls the West Bank of the Jordan River.

View of the Galilee from Mount Meron.

Israel has a long coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. In the south, the town of Eilat is on the Gulf of Aqaba, which is part of the Red Sea.

The Galilee is a fertile and mountainous region in the north. There is a flat plain called the Coastal Plain to the west near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Negev Desert is a barren area of flat plains, mountains and craters in the south. There is a range of mountains in the center that runs from the north to south.

On the eastern side, there is a low area called a depression. The Hula Valley and the Sea of Galilee are in this low area in the north. The Jordan River runs from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. The land next to the Dead Sea is the lowest in the world. It is -417 meters below sea level.[10]

The weather is normally hot and dry in the summer and mild in the winter. Rain falls mostly in the winter (between the months of November and April). There is more rain in the north than in the south and hardly any rain in the desert. Israel built a very big irrigation system to bring water from the north to the dry areas in the south so that crops can grow there also.[10]

Jerusalem is the biggest city in Israel. Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and Rishon LeZion are also large cities. The capital city is Jerusalem.[10]

Government[change | change source]

National government[change | change source]

Israel is a parliamentary democracy. All Israeli citizens who are 18 years or older may vote. The Israeli parliament is called the Knesset. The Knesset has 120 members. Each member is elected for no more than four years at a time. The Knesset makes laws, helps decide national policy, and approves budgets and taxes.

Voters do not vote for individual candidates in Knesset elections. Instead, they vote for a party. This party makes a list with all its candidates. The list may have only one candidate or as many as 120 candidates. In an election, the percentage of the vote that each list wins decides how many representatives, or seats, the party gets in the Knesset. For example, if a party list gets 33 percent of the vote, it gets 40 Knesset seats.

Israel has no written constitution. Instead, the Knesset made "Basic Laws". The Basic Laws say how the government must work and give civil rights to the citizens.

The Prime Minister is the head of Israel's government. He or she is usually the leader of the party that has the most seats in the Knesset. The prime minister must keep the support of a majority of Knesset members to stay in office. He or she appoints ministers to the cabinet. The Knesset approves appointments to the Cabinet. The ministers are responsible for subjects such as education, defense, social welfare and so on. The prime minister is the head of the cabinet and decides the topics of cabinet meetings and makes the final decisions.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been the Prime Minister since March 2009.

The President is the head of state. The Knesset elects the president for seven years. Most of the president's duties are ceremonial: The president signs laws and treaties approved by the Knesset, appoints judges, and members of some public organizations. He or she also accepts the documents from ambassadors and foreign diplomats bring when they are appointed.

Reuven Rivlin has been the President since July 2014.

Politics[change | change source]

Map of Israel

Israel has many political parties, with a large variety of opinions. In the elections of 2009, twelve parties won seats in the Knesset.

The parties belong to three main main groups: The biggest groups are the Zionist parties. These include the conservatives such as the Likud party; social democrats, such as Kadima and the Labor party; and the religious Zionists. There are also smaller religious Orthodox Jewish parties, special-interest parties, and Israeli Arab parties.

A single party usually does not win enough seats in the Knesset by itself to have a majority, so one of the bigger parties asks for support from the other parties, including the religious parties, to form a coalition government. This gives these parties a lot of power although they are small.

The Likud supports free market policies and limited government involvement in the economy. Likud believes strongly in protecting Israel's security. It wants to give less away in the peace process for a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab states.

The Labor Party supports government control of the economy, but also believes in a limited amount of free enterprise. The party says it will give more away for an agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab states.

Kadima is a centrist political party. It believes in both Israel's security and continuing the peace process, and supports negotiating an agreement for peace with the Palestinians.

Economy[change | change source]

At independence, Israel was a poor country with little agricultural or industrial production. But Israel's economy has grown tremendously since 1948. The nation now enjoys a relatively high standard of living, despite having few natural resources and a limited water supply.

Many immigrants came to Israel in the years immediately after independence. Many of these immigrants were skilled laborers and professionals who greatly aided the nation's economic development.

Service industries[change | change source]

Many of Israel's service industry workers are employed by the government or by businesses owned by the government. Government workers provide many of the services that are needed by Israel's large immigrant population, such as housing, education, and vocational training.

Tourism[change | change source]

Tourism is one of the country's important sources of income. Tourists visit many archaeological, historical and religious sites, museums, nature reserves and beach resorts in Israel.[11]

Tourists support many of Israel's service industries, especially trade, restaurants, and hotels. Over 2.7 million foreign tourists visited Israel in 2009.[12]

Manufacturing[change | change source]

Israeli factories produce such goods as chemical products, electronic equipment, fertilizer, paper, plastics, processed foods, scientific and optical instruments, and textiles and clothing. The cutting of imported diamonds is a major industry. Government-owned plants manufacture equipment used by Israel's large armed forces. Tel Aviv and Haifa are Israel's major manufacturing centers.

Agriculture[change | change source]

Agriculture formerly employed a much larger percentage of Israel's work force. But much of the work once performed by people is now performed by machines. Important agricultural products include citrus and other fruits, eggs, grain, poultry, and vegetables.

The government develops, helps finance, and controls agricultural activity, including fishing and forestry. Israel produces most of the food it needs to feed its people, except for grain. Agricultural exports provide enough income to pay for any necessary food imports. Most Israeli farmers use modern agricultural methods. Water drawn from the Sea of Galilee irrigates large amounts of land in Israel.

Most Israeli farms are organized as moshavim or kibbutzim. Israel also has some private farms.

Mining[change | change source]

The Dead Sea, the world's saltiest body of water, is Israel's leading source of minerals. Bromine, magnesium, potash and table salt are extracted from the sea. Potash, used mainly in fertilizers, is the most important mineral. In the Negev Desert, there are mines for phosphates, copper, clay, and gypsum.

Energy[change | change source]

Israel has few energy sources. It has no coal deposits or hydroelectric power resources and only small amounts of crude oil and natural gas. As a result, Israel depends on imported crude oil for gasoline and diesel for transportation, and coal producing electricity for its energy needs.

Solar energy – energy from the sun – is used widely to heat water for houses. Israel is developing other ways to use solar energy to power houses and factories.

In 2008, Israel began investing in building electric cars and the stations to charge them. There may also be large natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea that Israel could develop.

International trade[change | change source]

For 2006, Israeli exports grew by 11% to just over $29 billion; the hi-tech sector accounted for $14 billion, a 20% increase from the previous year.

Because it has few natural resources, Israel imports more goods than it exports. The country's main imports include chemicals, computer equipment, grain, iron and steel, military equipment, petroleum products, rough diamonds, and textiles. Israel's main exports are chemical products, citrus fruits, clothing, electronic equipment, fertilizers, polished diamonds, military equipment,and processed foods. The nation's main trading partners include the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Transportation[change | change source]

Israel has a well-developed transportation system. Most middle-class Israeli families either own a car or have one provided by their employer. Paved roads reach almost all parts of the country. Public transportation both in and between cities is provided primarily by bus.

Ben-Gurion Airport is Israel's main international airport. It is near Tel Aviv. There are smaller airports are located at Atarot, near Jerusalem, and at Eilat. El Al, Israel's international airline, flies regularly to the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of Africa and Asia. Israel has three major deepwater ports – Haifa, Ashdod, and Eilat.

Communications[change | change source]

Israel's communication system is one of the best in the Middle East. Israel has about 30 daily newspapers, about half of which are in Hebrew. The rest are in Arabic, Yiddish, or one of several foreign languages. The Israel Broadcasting Authority, a public corporation set up by the government, runs the TV and nonmilitary radio stations.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Israel". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 20 November 2012. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/is.html. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  2. "Latest Population Statistics for Israel". Jewish Virtual Library. April 2013. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/newpop.html. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  3. "Monthly Bulletin of Statistics". Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 9 March 2013. http://www1.cbs.gov.il/webpub/pub/text_page_eng.html?publ=93. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  4. "Population Census 2008" (PDF). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. http://www1.cbs.gov.il/www/mifkad/mifkad_2008/profiles/rep_e_000000.pdf. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". World Economic Outlook. International Monetary Fund. 17 April 2013. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2013/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2012&ssd=1&c=436&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  6. "UN General Assembly Resolution 181". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 29 November 1947. http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Peace/Guide/Pages/UN%20General%20Assembly%20Resolution%20181.aspx. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  7. "הודעות לתקשורת" (in Hebrew). www1.cbs.gov.il. 2014 [last update]. http://www1.cbs.gov.il/reader/newhodaot/hodaa_template.html?hodaa=201311357. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  8. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/books/review/Margolick-t.html?pagewanted=2&ref=review
  9. Live by the Sword: Israel's Struggle for Existence in the Holy Land - Page 124, James Rothrock - 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 The New American Desk Encyclopedia. Signet. 1984. p. page 609. ISBN 0-451-12803-6.
  11. "Israel’s Special Attractions". Israel Ministry of Tourism. http://www.tourism.gov.il/Tourism_Euk/Items/Attractions.htm. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  12. "Israel Welcomed 2.7 Million Tourists in 2009". Travel Pulse. http://www.travelpulse.com/Resources/Editorial.aspx?n=65393. Retrieved 2010-04-01.

Other websites[change | change source]